Tagged: Off-Season

A Rare Off-Season

After making the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons, and with a new ballpark in the waiting, the Minnesota Twins entered the off-season primed to make some moves. It took less than two days for the front office to get started, and the big moves over the past four-plus months have many fans optimistic about the team’s chances. 

Four roster moves and one key signing have fans excited, and the season that has been talked about for several years has now finally arrived. A new ballpark, the beginning of the prime years for several star players, and new additions to the roster could potentially make a great start for a new era in Minnesota baseball.
Less than forty-eight hours after the New York Yankees clinched the World Series, the Twins acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy with the hope that he can solidify the shortstop position for at least the next two seasons. The position hasn’t seen consistency since Christian Guzman roamed there during the 2005 season, and if Hardy can hit anywhere near the way he did during his breakout years in 2007 and 2008, he could be a perfect fit.
Next on the agenda was veteran starting pitcher Carl Pavano. His success against the division and the Detroit Tigers in particular made him the perfect late-season pickup as the Twins looked to capture a division title last year. His success with the Twins helped him stay put in Minnesota. After offering Pavano arbitration and receiving acceptance, the sides eventually worked out a one-year, $7 million deal. 
The Twins’ off-season was already going smoothly when the new year began. The rumors continued, and the big name that popped up seemingly every week was that of lefty Jarrod Washburn. Instead of adding another pitcher, the Twins added some pop to the bench with the signing of future Hall of Fame slugger, Jim Thome. After lacking a power hitter off the bench in the 2009 playoffs, the Twins went out and added a cheap option while taking an old nemesis off the streets at the same time. 
With the late-January addition of Thome, the Twins had made three solid off-season moves. Retaining Pavano and bringing in both Hardy and Thome were moves that helped general manager Bill Smith’s grade sheet. The money available seemed to be thin though, and what else the Twins could do remained uncertain as spring training neared.
Just over one week away from the start of spring training, and already at $90 million for the Opening Day payroll, the Twins wrote one more check and added second baseman Orlando Hudson to the fold. The veteran has made All-Star appearances, has won gold gloves, and is the perfect fit between Denard Span and Joe Mauer in the lineup. 
The off-season was already superb with the additions of Hardy, Pavano, Thome and Hudson when the Twins locked up one of baseball’s best players, Joe Mauer, through 2018 to officially complete the five months of hard work. Experts and fans from around the league have lauded the team’s off-season moves and the organization has without a doubt heightened their MLB betting odds for the 2010 season with what might be an off-season of a lifetime for the Minnesota Twins and their fans. 

Free Agency Underway

It’s a time of the year to guess, predict and hope, and after 15 days of an exclusive negotiating period, free agency has finally begun. The Minnesota Twins may have crossed one position off their list, but in the coming months they’ll be faced with several more decisions. 

The infield is partially settled with Justin Morneau and J.J. Hardy, but to their sides holes remain. After watching Joe Crede and a platoon of others play at third last season and after seeing Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and several others man second, both positions are now empty.
Meanwhile the rotation is unsettled with two spots open for the team to fill with in-house competition, trade or free agency. While Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn will fill three of the five spots, the remaining options outside of Brian Duensing were injured or underperformed in 2009.
Team President Dave St. Peter recently said the team would like to move from being a low-market team funded partially by Major League Baseball to a mid-market team receiving no additional funds. Such a change would push their payroll up, and estimates seem to place it around $90 million.
With the current roster, and arbitration and other raises included, the Twins will have an estimated $80-$83 million invested before making another move. Putting everything together, the Twins have about three holes and $7-$10 million to fill them.
So, what should they do?
Fans and others will guess, but ultimately what the front office does is unpredictable. With options available within the organization at each open position, the Twins have several ways to go about spending their funds and putting together a roster for the inaugural season at Target Field.
In the rotation the Twins could settle with Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing as options outside of their three current locks. Their other option is to pursue three free agents they reportedly like: Jarrod Washburn, Carl Pavano and Rich Harden. 
In the infield the Twins could go with their rising third base prospect Danny Valencia to fill the left side and Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert or Alexi Casilla at second. Another option is to sign a player like Felipe Lopez to play second or Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa, Joe Crede or Pedro Feliz to play third.
The off-season is a time to dream of the big moves, but it too is very unpredictable. What the Twins will do remains uncertain, but the best bet is a combination of mid-level free agent signings and in-house alternatives. 

Hello Hardy, Goodbye Gomez

It didn’t take long for the off-season to get started for the Minnesota Twins. Less than two days after the conclusion of the World Series, the team put a dent in their to-do list with a trade. 

With the infield filled with uncertainty outside of first base and Justin Morneau, it came as no surprise that the team’s first area of action was shortstop. In possibly the first of many off-season moves, the Twins sent Carlos Gomez up I-94 to Milwaukee and brought in 27-year old shortstop J.J. Hardy. 
Gomez had arrived in Minnesota two seasons ago when the Twins sent Johan Santana to New York in exchange for four players. A speedy outfielder, Gomez showed signs of promise, but upon his departure, his skills at the plate remained a question. 
Hardy meanwhile put up great numbers in 2007 to help earn a spot on the National League All-Star team. The numbers were matched again in 2008, but Hardy never rebounded from a slow start in 2009 and saw one of baseball’s top shortstop prospects, Alcides Escobar, take his spot. 
Since the 2005 season, Minnesota Twins’ shortstops have hit a combined .253 with 31 homeruns, and 287 runs batted in over the course of five seasons and 810 games. In that same span, Hardy has hit .262 with 75 homeruns and 265 RBI in 571 total games. 
Not only will the Twins potentially add power to the lineup, they’ll also add defense to the infield. Considered one of baseball’s best shortstop defenders, Hardy made eight errors last season giving him a .983 fielding percentage. 
While Milwaukee adds a replacement for Mike Cameron, the Minnesota Twins have answered two questions. Come spring, there will be no questions regarding the state of the outfield; Delmon Young, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer will start. 
Meanwhile, a position filled with uncertainty since Christian Guzman manned the spot in 2004 will now become more stable. Hardy is under the team’s control through 2011, and if he can rebound from a tough season, his tenure could last longer. 
Second base and third base remain as two of many questions, but quickly into the off-season, the Twins have already addressed one of their biggest holes.